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Helicopter talks stall over legal challenge

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: September 06, 2012

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DISCUSSIONS over the future of helicopter flights in west Cornwall have stalled as a legal challenge still stands in the way of development at Penzance heliport.

Although talks are continuing, they are not moving as quickly as some would like, Andrew George, MP for west Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, told The Cornishman.

British International Helicopters (BIH) announced last month that flights would stop for good on October 31 after a last-minute legal bid delayed the sale of the Eastern Green site to Sainsbury's. With no money forthcoming, BIH said it had no choice but to ground the loss-making service.

"I would say that at the present time, discussions have not progressed as fast as I think the majority of us were hoping," said Mr George.

"But I still remain reasonably optimistic."

Little is known about the specifics of the service talks, although Chris Ridgers, portfolio holder for economy and regeneration at Cornwall Council, told a full meeting of members this week: "We are exploring the opportunity to keep the helicopter base in Penzance. I have agreed with Andrew George, the Local Enterprise Partnership and Isles of Scilly Council to collectively impose a ban on any news announcements and when any progress is made to announce it collectively."

At the end of August, Tesco dismissed its fight against the granting of planning permission to Sainsbury's, but local man and former Isles of Scilly Steamship Company chief Charlie Cartwright is standing firm with his.

While plans to shut at the end of the summer season are still going ahead, BIH has also revealed there will be no flights at all for two weeks in October.

The aviation company has said that due to a "long-standing military commitment in Plymouth" the helicopters will not be in service from October 2 to 15.

A BIH spokesperson confirmed that one of its aircraft will be deployed.

"As the sister aircraft which is used for the passenger service is currently undergoing repairs, this will mean that the passenger service will be suspended during this period," they said.

Anyone with a booking for this period, the spokesperson added, will be offered alternative arrangements and the service is due to resume on October 16. The helicopter will also not be running on September 11, 12 and 13.

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